Friday, July 29, 2016

Lago Strobel-Initial Impressions

My first view of Lago Strobel
As the crow flies, Lago Strobel (AKA Jurassic Lake) is just over the adjacent ridge from Estancia Laguna Verde but in order to get from the lodge to the lake requires a short 15-minute drive.  The road to Lago Strobel from Estancia Laguna Verde is a good a, although somewhat bumpy, two-wheel drive dirt road. As rocks abound in Patagonia our daily trek with our guide Martin was a bit of shake and bake experience.  Wildlife greeted us every day to and from the lake, guanaco, foxes, emu and a variety of raptors.

Guanaco were a daily sight
(Courtesy Barry Acton)
The lodge vehicles placed you on the best spots daily
The day after my arrival was to be our first of six straight on Lago Strobel.  As we pulled away from Estancia Laguna Verde my heart raced with excitement wondering what to expect when I saw Lago Strobel for the first time.  We stopped on the edge of plateau before beginning our decent down to Lago Strobel I took a large deep breath.  It was hard to believe I was actually looking at the lake after hearing so much about its rich tradition of large, fat, healthy rainbows.  Each following morning upon viewing the lake, my reaction never changed.  Some days we were greeted by a lake in full turmoil complete with strong winds, rolling waves and white caps, other days it was a light ripple and there were those days when the lake was mirror calm.  Although Patagonia and Lago Strobel in particular has a reputation for wind, a day on the water isn’t always a raging gale.  Although when the wind was up the lake tended to fish best.

Lago Strobel trout make their living prowling the shoreline
(Courtesy Barry Acton)
After taking a few pictures and video footage we began our decent down to Lago Strobel, a drop of some thirteen stories.  Originally guests had to walk down a series of narrow switch back trails to the lake.  I couldn’t imagine making that daily journey, especially the steep ascent at the end of a long day.  Now the guides drive you down to and along lake shore in new well maintained Toyota Hi Lux four-wheel drive trucks to destinations such as Camelot, Tasmania and Dry Fly Bay.  When the lodge first opened there were only a few spots you could access.  Now there is a network of roads that has opened up over 14 miles of lake shore diversifying the pressure and providing you with the mobility needed to cross paths with the trout of a lifetime.  In many instances the only time you saw another guest was when transiting from one location to another or when everyone met at a central location such as Sea Bay or Monster Bay for lunch.   The lodge does all they can to ensure a quality experience, food accommodation and their guide to client ratio, one guide for every two clients.

The rugged beauty of Lago Strobel
Lago Strobel is large, roughly ten miles long and eight miles wide.  Its crystal clear waters radiate a stunning azure blue.  The lake is extremely productive with a PH in excess of eight.  The shore line rocks are encrusted in calcium carbonate.  The white look the calcium coated rocks provide suggests the appearance of low tide.  If you kick at some of the smaller rocks they break open like an Easter egg revealing their solid inner core.  The calcium coated rocks provided good traction the wind and wave worn smooth larger rocks and boulders were always the ones to be careful off when walking or wading.  A wading staff is a recommended piece of kit for probing likely looking footholds while providing an extra level of stability. The submerged rocks resembled coral heads and were tough on fly lines.  A fact I found out within a few days.  I wasn’t paying attention to floating line.  The wave action wedged my line in the rocks subsequently shredding it in the process.  I soon learnt to pay attention where I placed my line with each strip of my retrieve.

Lago Strobel trout loved it when the wind was up
(Courtesy Barry Acton)
Lago Strobel’s key food source, scuds, utilizes the calcium rich water for the healthy development of their exoskeletons.  Calorie rich scuds are the key ingredient in the diet of Lago Strobel’s monster, 15-pound average, rainbows. Rolling over shoreline rocks reveals hundreds of #12-#16 olive to brown olive scuds.  When the waves roll and crash along the shore thousands of these fattening morsels are swept from their rocky homes, many ending up in the gullet of Lago Strobel’s gargantuan trout.  The only other somewhat significant food source I discovered during my shoreline rock rolling was the odd cased caddis.  At times a #10 or #12 olive caddis pupa performed well.

A healthy diet of scuds equals large fat trout
(Courtesy Barry Acton)
Lago Strobel rainbows have become conditioned over time to cruising the shallows and gorging themselves on the drifting and swimming scuds, often less than a rod length from shore.  Angled or parallel casts often worked better than trying to bomb casts out into the depths.  It didn’t take long to figure out that windy days offered the best chance of latching into a submarine sized rainbow.  On calm days, trout seemed less likely to venture into the shallows choosing to remain at long range or off the deeper rock bluffs making fishing challenging at times.

My first Lago Strobel trout
(Courtesy Barry Acton)
One might think that a lake of Lago Strobel’s productivity level would be rich with aquatic vegetation.  Surprisingly, this is not the case.  The blend of rock, gravel and sand bottom coupled with the strong wave action makes it tough for any weeds to take root.  Only in a couple of protected areas, primarily Monster Bay, did I find a muddy bottom suitable enough for weeds to establish any sort of foothold.

Rocks, gravel, sand and calcium
Lago Strobel trout are some of the most beautiful and varied rainbows I have ever seen.  My favourite variety were the nickel bright fish that resembled fresh run steelhead.  Others where a blend of silver and spots similar to the Blackwater strain rainbows common to many lakes in British Columbia and then there a few incredibly spotted fish reminiscent of the leopard rainbows of Alaska.  I believe, after a few discussions with some of my biologist friends upon my return home, that the variation is caused by the amount of time each trout spends in the Barrancoso River, Lago Strobel’s only spawning tributary.  Trout spending the majority of their youth in the Barrancoso would be darker and more spotted while those that chose not to hang around, opting for the deep productive sanctuary of Lago Strobel, were a mirror sheen of silver.  

Each trout it seems offers a different colour scheme
(Courtesy Barry Acton)
For those wishing to blend in some river fishing into their Lago Strobel adventure the lodge has access to three different sections of the Barrancoso along the 10km stretch that weaves through the Estancia property. 

Lago Strobel, a must if you love chasing large stillwater trout
(Courtesy Barry Acton)
To me, Lago Strobel is the World Cup of stillwater fly fishing.  A top drawer bucket list destination.  In all my travels I can’t think of a place that offers such numbers of quality double digit stillwater trout.  To watch a pod of ten to twenty fish cruise by all in excess of 12 pounds or to see your mouse or Chubby Chernobyl sucked from the surface or perhaps a 20-pound fish cartwheeling after taking your fly in shallow water is the stuff dreams are made of.  I can’t wait to return.

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